MOE Committee of Supply Debate 2015 – Sports CCA

Encouraging sports CCA

Madam, several Members including myself have spoken previously about a greater level of sports engagement for our pupils and to increase the number of sports on offer by schools. Active participation in sports from young can hopefully help students develop a culture of active sports in the future.

I wish to suggest how we can add to schools’ efforts to provide more sports engagements for students:

  1. Introduce more fun competitions for sports within schools, which can be tiered so students who are at a lesser skill level can move up to a higher level when skills have improved.
  2. Introduce the concept of a minor CCA where students who want regular exposure to various sports can sign up for as a second or even third CCA. The time commitment may not be as intense as a regular CCA but it will allow students to try out more sports. CCA points would be correspondingly lesser.
  3. Recognise and award CCA points for the achievements of students who participate regularly and competitively with external training providers outside of school hours, even if the school does not offer the sports as a CCA. This will encourage students to pursue sports of their interest at a serious level where schools are not able to find the resources to offer that sport as a CCA.
  4. Allow international schools to join in the local inter-school competitions to increase the level of challenge, a point also raised by NMP Dr Ben Tan.

Thank you.

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MOE Committee of Supply Debate 2015 – Mother Tongue exemptions at PSLE

Mother Tongue exemptions at PSLE

Madam, I agree with bilingualism being a cornerstone of our education system.  All students in our primary and secondary schools now have to offer a Mother Tongue Language (MTL).

In a recent parliament reply, MOE had said that around 3.5% of students are exempted from MTL at the PSLE yearly. I accept that there are genuine reasons for exemptions such as those who join our education system mid-way without prior learning of the MTL or there are medical reasons that adversely affect their ability to cope with MTL.

In another reply, MOE cited that on average over the past 5 years, 178 MTL exemptions were given at PSLE in the 5 schools with the highest exemptions. That is 35.6 students per school, which is around 15-17% of the PSLE cohort in an average school.

This is high compared to the national average of 3.5%. Has MOE examined the reasons why there are wide variations in MTL exemptions across schools? Has MOE or the principal of schools with high exemptions sought to interview applicants to probe further into the reasons for seeking MTL exemptions? Seeking exemption based on medical reasons is costly. Is there a strong correlation between MTL exemptions and the socio-economic status of parents?

I hope students will not find ways to opt out of MTL even if they find the subject difficult or parents worry that offering MTL may pull down their children’s PSLE T-Score.

MOE Committee of Supply Debate 2015 – Internship

I delivered the following speech during the Committee of Supply debate for the Ministry of Education on 6 March 2015.

Management of industrial internship

Madam, internship will play an increasingly important role as we move to a more skills-based economy.

I had spoken on this topic before. While I am happy that there will be more internship and are told that it will be more structured, I remain concerned about how industries will be engaged to ensure that internships are meaningful as we ramp up the number of such places.

I have taken interns over the past 15 years and have spoken with others who have as well. From the perspectives of companies, the supply of interns has been somewhat unpredictable. Some institutions give longer notice period of incoming interns, some are as short as two weeks before commencement. Sometimes we are allowed to interview and select interns but often we are not. It will be difficult for companies to plan for meaningful projects if the supply is unpredictable and if the existing skills of the interns are not properly matched to what companies need.

For projects to be even more meaningful and realistic, where possible, it will be better if there could be continuity across different internship intakes from an education institution. We can encourage projects commenced during internship to continue as say, a final year project when the interns return to school.

We have a new Earn and Learn programme with generous funding support. I hope to see internship funding support for companies that take in a minimum number of interns a year so that they can dedicate resources to make internship rigorous, akin to a sort of apprenticeship programme. I also hope there can be close coordination between companies and supervisors in schools so that projects will be useful to companies while the internship experience will result in the learning required by the school. Where possible, we can also bring in the expertise of industry associations to help plan and validate internship programmes.

MOE Committee of Supply Debate 2015 – Integrated Schools and GEP

I delivered the following two speeches during the Committee of Supply debate for the Ministry of Education on 6 March 2015.

 

MOE: Integrated primary – secondary schools

Madam, this is the fourth year that I am speaking on the topic of through-train schools from primary through secondary. If I seem persistent, it is because I truly believe that in a suitably diverse education landscape, Singaporeans should have access to such a publicly-funded education option.

Such through-train schools will not require the pupil to go through the PSLE. It will allow the school to develop holistic education for a longer period with the pupils, allowing time to work on their character and values, as well as other aspects beyond exams. From results seen in other countries and in private schools that offer such a through-train system, academic achievements need not be compromised.

I had previously outlined broad ideas on how we can start with, say eight of such schools distributed throughout Singapore, and exclude all top schools from being part of such a pilot. I had called for this to be implemented gradually and on a pilot basis because the majority of Singaporeans may not yet understand how an education system can work without the PSLE.  Nevertheless, I am convinced there is a sizeable minority who will be prepared to have their children go through 10 years of education in the same school, even if it means their children will find it difficult to enter the existing top schools without the PSLE.

I call upon MOE to seriously study the option, conduct public surveys to gauge the level of support of parents for such pilot schools and to publish these results so that we can have a meaningful conversation on this education option.

 

Review of GEP

Madam, Gifted Education Programme (GEP) was started 31 years ago. Each year, about 1% of the cohort are picked for GEP through a series of national tests for abilities in English, Math and Science at the end of primary 3.

I had previously asked MOE to review centralised GEP and in its place, provide support for as many schools to develop their higher ability students so that their students will not need to relocate to one of the nine GEP schools at primary 4.

There are many forms of giftedness, not just in language, science and math. Some are gifted in the arts or sports. The current definition of GEP is narrow. We can encourage all schools to have various forms of deep specialised enrichment engagement. Where we need scale, we can tap on the schools cluster system or work through existing institutions with strong expertise in science, arts or sports. And for the very rare pupil with extreme giftedness who would even find the current GEP unengaging, we can tap on our universities.

Some non-GEP schools have developed their own gifted classes to encourage their best students to stay with the school rather than relocate to a GEP school. We need not have this competition. We can spread the programme developed for GEP across more schools, and also widen our definition of giftedness.

Lastly, after 31 years, has MOE done longitudinal studies to track GEP graduates into their career, and can these studies be made public.  I hope the public can have more data on the outcomes of GEP to examine its continued relevance.

MTI Committee of Supply Debate 2015 – Internationalising Singapore companies

I delivered the following two speeches during the Committee of Supply debate for the Ministry of Trade and Industry on 6 March 2015.

Growing Singapore’s Global Corporate Champions

Mr Chairman, we have recognised the limitations of relying on Multi-Nationals to drive our economy.  SMEs account for 70% of employment but contribute a much smaller percentage of GDP.

I like to call for a whole-of-government approach to nurturing Singapore’s global corporate champions; just had we had done so in our pursuit of FDI.

This is an important national priority. We should create an inter-departmental secretariat to take ownership of the target to have 1,000 Singapore enterprises with revenues above $100 million by 2020 and even more ambitious goals. This is similar in approach to our National Productivity Council which sets over-arching goals – such as the 2-3% productivity growth targets – and then works with various agencies to set sector goals and monitor sectoral progress. For other urgent national priorities, we have committees, such as the National Climate Change secretariat and the National Population and Talent division

Such a secretariat could work with MFA to ensure that the wish-lists of the most promising Singapore firms be fully factored into our trade diplomacy. It could work with companies to identify R&D needs and coordinate with our tertiary and research Institutes to help to focus important IP developments. It could work with MAS and MOF to address issues related to funding – and perhaps revisit the idea of an EXIM Bank which some of our competitor nations have.  It could also work with all agencies to help improve access to government procurement opportunities or special innovation projects in ways that are GPA[1]-compliant.

It could also work with economic agencies like IES, EDB and SPRING to ensure that more aggressive support is given to firms with the most potential to become our global corporate champions. It could help bring partners together to exploit opportunities as well as government co-investment. But support has to be conditional on delivering results – exports, revenues and spin-off benefits to the Singapore economy.

In the early days of South Korea’s industrialization, then-President Park Chung Hee made aggressive government support available to the emerging chaebols, but conditional on the achievement of very aggressive export targets. Otherwise the firms would be dropped from the program.[2]

Looking at other countries with a similar population size to Singapore which have nurtured global champions – like Israel, Denmark, New Zealand and Norway – as well as looking at how a few of our promising local firms are making good progress globally, I believe that using this results-oriented approach can help build a strong third pillar to our economy.

[1] https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/gproc_e/gp_gpa_e.htm

[2]

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/9d84d488-5f90-11e4-8c27-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3TPJbfFZ1

Encouraging Internationalisation

Mr Chairman, we need to grow our promising local firms into globally competitive companies, but with their roots in Singapore.

The new programmes such as IGS (International Growth Scheme) and the Double Tax Deduction for Internationalisation are a welcome step in the right direction. These schemes can benefit companies venturing abroad, especially by organic growth. However, in some situations, acquisition may be more efficient.

We can improve our ecosystem to enable our future world champs. We should encourage more companies to use IFS (Internationalisation Finance Scheme) now that it can be used for M&A. The number of companies getting IE-administered grants for cross-border M&A has been increasing but is still small at 32 last year[1].

To encourage strong development of our brands overseas, can we have a lower tax rate for IP-related income from abroad instead of the usual 17% for corporate tax?

I also like to ask about the new schemes. Can DTD cover manpower expenses incurred to put Singaporeans overseas, such as kids’ schooling allowances and relocation costs?

For IGS, is there a target for the number of companies to be on this? We have targets for the other schemes, but what about IGS? And how many years will be granted and what are the key conditions for renewal at expiry?

For Venture debt risk-sharing, do the schemes apply for overseas M&A?

Thank you.

[1] http://sprs.parl.gov.sg/search/topic.jsp?currentTopicID=00007198-WA&currentPubID=00007207-WA&topicKey=00007207-WA.00007198-WA_5%2BhansardContent43a675dd-5000-42da-9fd5-40978d79310f%2B